“He that falls in love with himself will have no rivals.” Benjamin Franklin
THE man who stopped the boats yesterday declared he will now stop the bludgers. In a sweeping cabinet reshuffle, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison will now be tasked with putting rorters back to work and creating a new families package. Dubbing himself the “Minister for Economic Participation” the new Social Services minister has the task of clearing up the billions taxpayers fork out on people who would rather claim welfare then work. The Daily Telegraph 22 December 2014
The final nail in the coffin of the Abbott government was not the whiff of scandal emanating from the Pyle-Ashby nexus; the malodorous political corpse of scandal-in-waiting Mal Brough; the Credlin-Abbott power nexus; the stench wafting down from ICAC in Sydney.
Nor was it any number of other things such as the crushing unpopularity of a government that couldn’t take a trick without a dirty trick or two involving phone calls from asylum seeker children to cross-bench senators or the desperate plundering of Foreign Affairs’ money-box to pay for guns and gunships, sovereign borders, Federal Police, the Reserve Bank, Direct Action and sundry other lapses of impulse-control.
Nor was it the failure of all the PM’s snipers, ASIO operatives, terror squads and secret intelligence to protect Sydney from a notorious and threat-listed madman who somehow dropped off the list, resulting in the tragic deaths of two innocent civilians.
No. None of these. It was to prove Abbott’s last act of bastardry that did him in. The ‘promotion’ of Scott Morrison. How this came about is a curious tale of a most curious individual, in curious circumstances, for Morrison is a man conflicted in so many ways: by his beliefs and his actions; by his words and meanings; by his ambition and his embarrassing public displays of servile devotion and unquestioned obedience to his leader, whoever he or she may be.
Flushed with his self-proclaimed triumph of stopping the boats, First Sea Lord Morrison, reportedly repeatedly, relentlessly badgered his leader, the beleaguered, self-deluded Tony Abbott for promotion. ‘I am your stand-out star performer, he is believed to have said on every occasion and many would-be, could be, not-quite and not at all occasions. I stopped the boats…’
It was a poor career tactic. Morrison’s persistent attention-seeking self-promotion not only provoked displeasure in many of his naturally unpleasant or jealous cabinet colleagues, it prompted his boss or his boss’s boss, Peta Credlin, or both, to have him moved sideways.
Yet it was Morrison’s unctuous protestations of unhesitating loyalty to his boss that were the last straw. He would, he lied, with nauseating eagerness and frequency, do whatever his Prime Minister, said he should do. Someone give him a suicide vest and a one-way ticket to Iraq, please, Credlin murmured under her breath. Aloud she said to Tony, why don’t we give him Kevin’s job? It made sense. Couldn’t be any worse than Andrews, they agreed. And Kevin’s already cut all the agencies. Saved us a quarter of a billion. Glad we could help him out with getting the credentials for his counselling outfit.
Morrison’s conduct has been overweeningly, dangerously ambitious, even for a party built out of overweeners. He has put Julie Bishop to shame, but without the jewellery, couture or the jogging; Murdoch’s press loved him and his amour propre, affectionately describing him as a tough guy who got things done. That hurt. So, in the end, Abbott was persuaded by Credlin, he had to be taken care of.
Liberal Party Chairman Brian Loughnane, Peta’s husband, a dab hand at such matters, was in attendance, to ensure proceedings served the party’s interests, its heritage and its principles of unbridled pragmatism, expediency and leaving all the rest up to the market.
And so it goes that Mad-Dog Morrison, once and forever garlanded with the reeking albatross of Immigration and Border protection – the moral, economic and policy failure of Immigration, tracked his execrable political corpse for the last time into the boudoir of power, Abbott’s own throne and star chamber, newly-renovated and replete with bar fridge, overnighter and bicycle by the wall, the Prime Minister’s office. He knelt at Peta Credlin’s size 11 stilettoes. He talked about himself, pleading his case.
Naturally, Morrison, explained, he had effected a little career enhancement of his own, as it were, on the job. His genius constrained by the plain title ‘Immigration’ he had cleverly expanded his importance by announcing that he was adding Border Protection but stopping short of explaining this was in order to imitate his mentor Howard in creating and maintaining an Australian phobia of asylum-seekers as a threat to the nation. The new title went with trimmings including an exalted four star general, Angus Houston, and lots of staff in uniforms. He sighed happily.
Morrison militarised his department, he went on. He gave regular briefings where he couldn’t answer any questions or else simply failed to turn up. He changed the law, putting himself, if not exactly above it, at least in the next best available position.
But every dog has its day and so it was on this day, a few days before Christmas. Arise Sir Scott, John, Morrison, said Abbott, only half in jest for a knighthood had been dangled over him. Arise Sir Scott, Knight of the boats, the olds and the bludgers.
It was, he knew it, Morrison’s day to be shunted out of contention as a leadership rival. Social Services was snatched from the safe hands of Kevin Andrews and thrust upon the newly dubbed has-been with some extras tacked on for show.
Time to take stock. Granted, the amalgamation of childcare, welfare and family leave create the appearance of a super ministry but it was hardly a reward. For starters, Morrison has no budget and beyond that he is singularly ill-prepared by his experiences in Immigration to begin to cope with Social Services, albeit the new, enhanced, expanded model with extra child-minding.
In brief, Morrison is clueless. He has no idea of how to go about his very different new job. In a stroke of either genius, pure malice or instinctive vindictiveness, Tony Abbott has checked the career of his ambitious over-reacher, Morrison with a poisoned chalice.
What can we expect? From the past, we can expect silence. Already Morrison has declined to be interviewed on ABC on the subject of the ‘defunding’ of disability advocates, homelessness and all other groups representing the poor and needy. Certainly, they had no idea that funds would be cut by a quarter of a billion dollars.
Naturally there will be a change of name to fit the neo-con mould of veneration of economics. Expect the Ministry of Economic Participation, caring for at least half a million who through no fault of their own are excluded from participation.
We can expect more manipulation. This will follow the trail blazed by the way he got children to phone cross bench senators such as Ricky Muir but just in case they may have got bamboozled: there are still hundreds of children in detention in Australia. Plus over 150 on Nauru. Peter Dutton could well attend to this in his first act as Minister.
Above all we can expect propaganda and lies about the NDIS being too expensive to run without swingeing cuts to other welfare spending. Here it will be imperative to remind Morrison of the facts. The NDIS was funded by a 0.5% increase in the Medicare Levy in July. The increase – from 1.5 to 2% – took effect in July 2014 and is expected to raise $20.4 billion by 2018-19. The NDIS is estimated to cost just over $22 billion a year when fully operational in 2019-20.
The cost per taxpayer is minimal. Average Australian taxpayers, in full time work the ABS calculates enjoy incomes of $74,724, before tax, it means around $350 per annum or $7 per week. Those on $110,000 will pay $500 or $10 per week.
There was bipartisan support for this Labor initiative but now it suits Scott Morrison to claim that welfare cuts are needed to pay for the NDIS.
In the end, however, we can expect the same crass ineptitude that is the Abbott government’s signature. Only this time, it will be visible and not enveloped by a pseudo-military operations secrecy. And Social Services won’t be militarised so readily although don’t discount the formation of a dole-bludger-busting squad trawling through Brandis’ metadata and even out on the street, lifting blankets, inspecting limbs, checking the real mobility of those in mobility scooters.
Morrison can’t refuse to speak because it is an ‘in-bed matter’ or an ‘in wheel chair matter. He won’t be able to ship oldies and other recalcitrant pensioners off shore, as much as he would like to. He may of course, resort to proposing military training for dole bludgers but it’s unlikely to be a runaway success, especially given poor morale in the forces because of low wages, poor conditions and so on.
In short, it will be a total disaster. Morrison will rush into savage cuts to pensions, allowances, and anything else he can get his hands on. The economy will change down another cog as a result. The public and the public servants will jack up.
Morrison will plead the need to fund the NDIS. He will bang on about safety nets and sustainability. But the Australian public will see him coming this time. They will resist. They will contest his every move, his every word and deed.
Not so fast, ‘mad dog,’ Australians will say, we’ve got your number. Get back in the Ute – and cut out that barking. We are taking you to the vet. Only it won’t be a vet, it will be a court of law requiring Morrison to answer charges relating to his time as Minister for death camps and detention centres. The long list will include charges of manslaughter, child abuse, obtaining benefit by deception and violation of human rights. Morrison will be advised to plead nolo contendere. He will, by special arrangement, be incarcerated on Manus Island for the rest of his (un)natural life.